Energy prices are increasing rapidly, driven by more demand on energy as economies recover from the effects of the pandemic, with supply unable to keep up. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has also exacerbated the issue, with some countries stopping or limiting their purchase of Russia’s oil and gas.
For that reason alone we all need to reduce our energy use and costs. However climate change is the main reason that we need to decarbonise our economy and communities.
This is about the survival of our people and planet. We need to limit greenhouse gas emissions and global temperature rises in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Why are we in a climate emergency?
Our planet’s climate is changing and warming at an accelerating rate. The last eight years have been the hottest on record. 2019 saw the UK’s hottest ever recorded temperature and the warmest winter temperature.1.2 The increased levels of greenhouse gasses (GHG) from human activities mean we are trapping more heat and causing our planet to warm at an unprecedented rate. The science is clear: we are in a climate emergency and need to act now to reduce carbon emissions to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5°C.3
Coping with climate change is likely to be one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century as global heating makes its impact. The latest climate change projections for the UK indicate there are likely to be warmer wetter winters, hotter summers, more extreme weather events such as heat waves, torrential downpours of rain, extreme wind and storm events and rising sea levels. These changes in climate are likely to create significant impacts which will affect all aspects of the south west’s economy, society, infrastructure and the natural environment.
What can you do?
Sustainability is a big topic for all businesses. With increasing pressure on everyone to make changes to help the environment, it is important you consider how to include it as a priority for your business or organisation right from the start.
Sustainability and decarbonisation is a huge subject, with lots of different elements and terminology which can be overwhelming and confusing if you’re not familiar with it.
Support from the School for Social Entrepreneurs
In the South West:
The School for Social Entrepreneurs – along with our partners Devon Communities Together, 3SG, Somerset Social Enterprise Network (SSEN) – are running a series of decarbonisation workshops in the south west, as part of the UK Community Renewal Fund entrepreneurship programme.
These practical workshops will help you develop your own decarbonisation plan in order to reduce your carbon footprint. To help demystify the process and explain exactly what it means for you and your business.
So the workshops will also provide an introduction to sustainability and its common terminology – see glossary of key words below – and how small changes to your operations can make a big difference for your local environment, community as well as your business.
How can I book a place?
We also run a national programme with Royal London:
Does your organisation help people engage in the societal impact of the move to net zero? If you are based in the UK or Ireland – check out our free Royal London Changemakers Programme. Applications close Tuesday 17th May.
Traci Lewis is a social business consultant and coach supporting women & purpose-led businesses to save the world. She is currently working for SSE as the marketing and communications lead – alongside Alison Belshaw – in Bath & North East Somerset (BaNES). She will also be running some of the decarbonisation workshops for SSE and Somerset SE network as part of the UK Community Renewal Fund programme.
Glossary of key terms
- Climate Change: The rising average temperature of earth’s climate system, called global warming, is driving changes in rainfall patterns, extreme weather, arrivals of seasons, and more.
- Climate Emergency: A situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt Climate Change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.
- Mitigation: Actions which will lead to the avoidance or reduction of emissions or will reduce the projected impacts of global heating. This means reducing our emissions of GHGs like carbon dioxide (CO2), through energy efficiency and using alternative forms of transport and energy.
- Adaptation: Refers to actions which are necessary to deal with the impacts that cannot be mitigated. Addresses the ways in which we act to manage the unavoidable risks and impacts of Climate Change, building resilience within, or adapting, our natural and built environment now and into the future. As irrespective of the success of mitigation efforts, there will still be some degree of climate change. This stems from our historic greenhouse gas emissions and the persistence of these gasses in the atmosphere.
- Net zero: Having an equal balance between the emissions produced and put into the atmosphere and the emissions removed. Emissions can be removed from the atmosphere through initiatives such as planting trees or restoring peat bogs, as plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air. This is often termed ‘offsetting.’
- Offsetting: A way of compensating for emissions arising in one place, by taking action elsewhere. For instance, it may not be possible, feasible or viable to actually reduce emissions from a particular source any further, so instead money would be diverted to deliver additionality in mitigation/sequestration projects elsewhere to make up for the emissions that will remain. However this approach is the last resort, as we shouldn’t be creating emissions in the first place.
- Carbon emissions: All GHG emissions need to be reduced however carbon emissions are the major focus for action due to their prevalence and the opportunities for reduction that exist. Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is the principal contributor to global heating, however a number of other greenhouse gases contribute including methane, nitrous oxide and f-gases. Reducing methane, in particular, can have much quicker effects due to its shorter lifespan, so this must also be explored.